May 4, 1999

MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS

FROM: GARY SCHMITT

SUBJECT: Kosovo

Over the weekend, Texas Governor George W. Bush made clear his disagreement with the position taken last week by a majority of House Republicans who voted to end military air operations against Yugoslavia and to remove U.S. armed forces from the conflict. A spokes-person quoted in the Washington Post Sunday said the governor supports the airstrikes and believes that it is "very important for the United States to send a clear signal to [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic that we are committed to this [military] effort and committed to winning."

But winning seems to be the last thing on the mind of many of the GOP members of Congress. Some visit Belgrade, others attempt to negotiate with Russian parliamentarians, and others praise Jesse Jackson's "diplomatic" efforts; in doing all of this, Republicans are only making it easier for the Clinton Administration to cut a weak and strategically-unsatisfactory deal with Slobodan Milosevic. At the end of the day, the attempt to "give peace a chance," as some in the GOP leadership have suggested, would result in a situation in which the nationalists within Russia are stronger, NATO is significantly weakened, and Milosevic is still in power.

Instead, conservatives should be criticizing the Clinton Administration for not fighting the war decisively, and not fighting the war to win. And if conservatives doubt the administration's competence to carry out such a war, then, as the Wall Street Journal argued in Friday's editorial, they should be pressuring the president to replace his current national security team with a "war cabinet" composed of experienced and trusted individuals. As the WSJ's Paul Gigot noted in his "Potomac Watch" column of the same day: "The loyal opposition is supposed to urge the right policy, not sit back while the wrong one fails. Republicans who expect to regain the White House in 2000 might want to think about leaving a smaller mess for their president to clean up" — a point Senator McCain, Elizabeth Dole and Governor Bush obviously understand.